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November 29, 2006
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Methamphetamine Awareness Day

Before voters approved Prop. 36, California law followed national trends in the 1980s-90s by relying increasingly on punishment and prisons as its primary response to arrests for illicit drug use. This helped fill our jails and prisons to twice capacity. The total number of people imprisoned in California for drug possession quadrupled between 1988 and 2000, and peaked at 20,116.

But then, in 2000, 61% of California voters passed the treatment-instead-of-incarceration law. Under Prop. 36, the prison population has fallen by about 10,000 and over 35,000 Californians convicted of nonviolent low-level drug offenses access treatment each year. Before entering treatment, over half of them—over 19,000 people—used methamphetamine.

Over five years after the law went into effect, Prop. 36 has given us real-world experience that methamphetamine addiction is treatable. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have gathered evidence showing that methamphetamine users have a Prop. 36 treatment completion rate of 35%, higher than users of cocaine/crack (32%) or heroin (29%).

These statistics represent real people. Read about Prop. 36 graduates Cynthia and Stephanie, who are in recovery from over a decade of addiction to methamphetamine each.

Now that we know that methamphetamine is treatable, what should we do?

California policymakers are obligated to expand access to drug treatment outside of the criminal justice system. It is both cheaper and better for public safety to provide treatment to those who need it sooner rather than later.

More counties should implement the Pharmacy Syringe Sale and Disease Prevention Act, which the Governor signed in 2004. So far, well under half of California’s 58 counties have rolled out the program to allow nonprescription purchases of up to ten syringes at pharmacies.

With up to half of those with newly identified HIV-infection linked to methamphetamine use, it is crucial that we expand access to sterile syringes, which curtails transmission of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, increases safe disposal of used syringes, and helps drug users obtain drug education and treatment.


Common Sense for Drug Policy
California Society of Addiction Medicine
California State Association of Counties

Read commentary from Oliver H., a Prop 36 graduate.

Get the Facts
Over a dozen Proposition 36 fact sheets are available for download. Topics include: the Effectiveness of Drug Treatment, Drug Courts/Deferred Entry, and the California Correctional System.
breakdowns of the 2000 initiative votes
For background on the Prop. 36 campaign and other votes nationwide for drug policy reform, see:

Contact Lists
County Lead Agencies
and Contacts
Parole Region Contact
Probation Contacts



Drug Policy Alliance · (916) 444-3751 · [email protected]